The 22

As simple as my name is, there is a simplicity in the conclusion one might have by the end of this short story. And that lies in the word “effort.”

I’ve always appreciated effort more than anything as one of my strongest assets. Effort got me where I am today, and effort is what’s gonna make me come to the end of this short but inspirational moment I’m having.

I am a sister of five: one sister and four brothers. We were taken from our family when I was young. I am a very young lady, although I am the oldest in the family.

At that moment, the moment when everything we knew was taken away, it was a time to act.

As a person who grew up in institutional care, I became aware of two ways those young people go. We either fall prey to fear or we put in the effort. And today, like many days before, I am realizing I chose for myself the best way I could walk.

Today, I am a student among a very small number that turned to education after leaving that place. I have a dream to become a professional athlete, and I am working on it every day.

Many things on a daily basis work to shatter my dream. This includes being in a small country that doesn’t have any connection with the places I want to be, as well as not having enough money or being in a situation to earn enough to go my own way. I also must wait to be drafted by the clubs, which choose people based on where they come from. I often hear people talk about young people like me as if we will never make it or as if we deserve the destiny we are facing.

I’ve been through a lot, and I want to help others and change my small world around me. Through this all, I realized one big truth. There is no person that has it simple, that has it easy. In fact, the easier it is, the smaller the prize is.

I am sure you can reflect on your own life and realize how true that is. Look around yourself and see all the people around you. They all have it hard on themselves, don’t they?

If it seems different, look closely. Then remember the last time something came so quickly, so easy. Was it really as worth it, and did it stick around as long as those times you worked your ass off to get there?

The short version of my story says that I’ve had a parent who was not very sure of her own worth, a parent that never got a chance based on where she was from, based on the war that was going on at that time. A parent who escaped one hard marriage and got into another one. And then, I had another parent who never had his life easy, whose mother jumped from a bridge with him in her arms when he was just a small baby. This one had a serious alcohol issue and a serious health problem, too.

We were six kids with two parents who didn’t work, who never could. After the separation, we had two paths to go with. Most of us chose effort, although those young souls are still not grown up enough to choose anything. As a child, I was unstoppable, which is a thing that still follows me on my way.

I did all of it at once, from writing to acting, playing the violin and an electric guitar, training in Tae Kwon Do, and playing football. All at once. Traveling and learning English were results of my extra effort, to  get somewhere and to get something. All of it followed me until here, to the moment where I might be ready enough to pursue my career.

But before that, I want to take a few moments and give something to the community who gave me all the chances and support needed for me to collect myself into this person I am today. Me. Ana.

The name of my story is “The 22.” That’s my jumper number for the past four years both in my national and local club. It’s just a number that I wear in a sport, but when I play wearing that number, I am collected and complete.

I have a strong feeling about this and about pursuing my dreams. I never thought I could be so good at something that I could be among the best. I always thought about how it’s easy to try to motivate people once you’ve succeeded. I might not get there. So I might be the right person to offer a particular insight. Because I myself would want to hear it from someone who is still trying, fighting, and putting in all the effort to get there.

So what is the effort I’ve seen in my life?

It is studying at a university, finding myself unable to get a scholarship, and then paying a lot of money to be able to train. It is going to that field every single day while hearing all those people say it’s a waste of time. It is waking up and smiling, trying to win at life while you keep hearing them laugh at you when you are only a kid, saying there will be no future for you. It is believing you deserve so much regardless of what life has shown you in these few years you’ve lived. It is loving yourself even when you make decisions for others based on your personal life.

It is playing the sport you love even after being called “a boy” for your whole life. It is playing that sport and being the best at it but always giving more and being humble about your talent, about your heart and your hunger.

It is writing a story for all the woman even when they make you feel like you’re not one of them just because you don’t act or dress a certain way. It is giving people chances after they used all the good in you and left you to cope on your own.

Effort might not be what we can give at all times. But effort makes humans a hero. Which we have to be for ourselves, to ourselves. Because at times, there is just you in the story. But that’s far from a bad thing.

It’s a great thing when you get to be beautiful, strong, and independent just the way you are. The way we all are.

This is about your game. About you. About your effort, too.

The 22 is not a story about me—it is a story about all of us.

The 22 stands for the number of my jumper. But 22 can stand for whatever you want it to be. With effort, it’s gonna become your story. And then you might as well make it everyone else’s, too.

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About the Author | Ana Barisic

Ana Barisic is a young woman from a big family with an even bigger past. She always dreamt of changing the world and inspiring others. She is a student whose wandering in search of a career will be there until her dream becomes true. She wants to become a professional sports player and hopes to help others get where they want alongside her.

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